Hurray for John Riggins! He's one athlete who knows how to treat a bunch of political stuffed shirts and their boring ceremonial dinners with the right perspective. Of course, there are a lot of pious hypocrites inside and outside of sports who will wring their hands about bringing down the image of sports. Haven't they figured out yet that sports is for entertainment? Riggins is the rare athlete who manages to be entertaining both off the field as well as on it.
Why all the fuss over John Riggins' conduct while "smashed"? He's probably the first guy in Washington, D.C., history to admit that he didn't know what he was doing at the time.
HOWARD B. ANDREEN
Hazzard's Commitment Will Soon Pay Dividends
After Walt Hazzard's worst weekend of the season, it's perhaps appropriate to echo the feeling some others have already expressed: Hazzard is the best thing to happen to UCLA basketball since the Great Man retired. His mental toughness and self assurance are as genuine as his commitment to the Wooden system. He coaches exactly like he played, and in the near future that is likely to lead to the same kind of dominance.
This business of the Wooden system is very strange. Wooden's predecessors in the revolving door have all paid it the usual lip service, but none of them ever made an all-out commitment. Which is understandable since it's the most ambitious system there is. It depends on extreme team balance and needs exceptional players all over the court. It's not the double stack, or the passing game, or 31 varieties of zone defense, or three dozen bounce passes to the shot or any other system that coaches use to strangle play on the court and hide the deficiencies of their players (or their own coaching limitations). It's maximum basketball played at full speed, and yet the control is obvious because the effort is so grounded in fundamentals and always channeled into a total team concept. It's relentless pressure from opening tip to however long the game is in doubt.
With the single exception of Reggie Miller, Hazzard hasn't got the players to make the system go. But you get the feeling he soon will have. I'm sure there's not a conference coach who doesn't wish Larry Farmer had never resigned. This year is a free shot for the opposition, but the handwriting is on the wall.
Sports reporting in Los Angeles is generally negative, which is hard to understand since we are the sports capital of the world and offer ample opportunity for positive reporting. It was refreshing to read the very positive articles on USC basketball players Rhonda Windham and Larry Friend, and a following article on Stan Morrison. Previous reporting on the USC basketball program epitomizes what I mean by negative reporting. Perhaps if some additional investigative work were done on the USC program, the tone might change. As an example: the first goal of the USC basketball program is have its seniors graduate. That's refreshing!
JAMES E. KELLY
Southland basketball fans should rejoice. Not so much over their teams' play, as the fact that the Lakers are in the Pacific Division and UCLA and USC are in the Pac-10.
Thanks for a Glimpse of This Magic Moment
As one who has experienced intense and prolonged periods of homelessness, I had a decided reaction to Scott Ostler's glimpse of "The Magic Kingdom." I thought, uh-oh, I love Magic but should he be doing this? Then I looked at Magic's smile from his tub and, yes, he should be doing this.
Magic, in the true spirit of irrepressible joy that characterizes his play, says: "I still can't believe it. I cannot believe it." And: "Hey, I'm blessed. I never would have imagined this." And: "I am thankful for it, that's for sure."
With all the recent publicity on the homeless, Ostler and the editors (and Magic) must surely have had some misgivings about printing such a story. I write because it's a virtual certainty that you'll receive any number of cranky letters denouncing your timing and taste. Magic's happy humility should disarm these critics, whose sincerity I would never trust anyway.
I for one thank Magic for giving us a glimpse not only of his home but also his radiant and warming appreciation for the wonder of it all. If it's an act, may he never stop performing.
Disappointing Seasons Don't Go Unrewarded
Every year it seems the exorbitant salary structure in professional sports reaches new levels of absurdity. But a recent article about two Dodgers who have filed for arbitration deserves special recognition. We're talking about two fringe players who should have been front line. Yet, their performances were so disappointing that they were demoted, not to the bench, but to the minors where both spent a good portion of the season.
Greg Brock, paid $95,000 last season, is seeking $175,000; the Dodger offer is $125,000. Carlos Diaz, who made $93,500, is seeking a raise to $170,000; the Dodger offer is $120,000.
Since when is a subpar season so favorable rewarded? Certainly the Dodger offer is more than generous, considering the players' performances, and is well above the rate of inflation.
It's about time that baseball become in touch with the real world.
I wish the Major League Players Assn. would stop crying foul about the drug-test clauses the Dodgers tried to put in the contracts of a few of their players. The Dodgers evidently feel that they have the right to check their players for drug use when they are paying them big money.
These players are the role models for almost everybody's kids and when the children hear that their favorite athlete has been using drugs, some kids will think that it is OK for them to do it. The National Basketball Assn. has developed a fair drug program for its players. Why can't baseball do the same?
If the baseball players do go on strike this season because of the drug situation, I know that this fan will lose some enthusiasm for the sport of baseball.
Don Sutton's Remarks Are Signs of Spring
Well, I guess it really is the baseball season. We've gotten our annual Don Sutton whining article. I would think that after 19 years The Times would be as sick of printing them as I am of reading them.
As a Baseball Player, Cepeda Deserves Honor
Regarding Orlando Cepeda, I particularly noted the remarks of baseball writers Jack Lang and Dick Young stating that they will not vote for Cepeda's induction into the Hall of Fame because of his post-retirement drug conviction.
Doubtlessly, both men would defend the Hall of Fame selection of Babe Ruth, a thoroughly dissolute man who was a notorious drunkard, brawler, womanizer and gluttonous wastrel throughout his playing career. Ruth and Cepeda obviously belong in the Hall of Fame because of their baseball skill without regard to issues of personal misconduct.
JOHN A. TOWNSEND
At Least, the Kings Have Leads to Lose
There has been a lot of negative ink written these past few weeks about the Los Angeles Kings' inability to hold a lead in some of their games. On behalf of the few truly hard-core hockey fans in this town, I say let us be thankful that we have a team on the ice that has gotten a lead at all. If we reflect on the past two seasons, we did not even make the playoffs, let alone hold a lead.
Our hats are off to Rogie Vachon, Mike Murphy and Coach Pat Quinn. Thanks for the great job.
JOSEPH D. BUA Sr.
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